CDTV

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It was the early 90's and the Compact Disc had already proven to be a succesful medium in replacing the aging vinyl as the format of choice for audio recordings. By now the computer industry was also looking at the CD as the successor to the equally aging floppy disk. Data CD's would have hundreds of times more storage capacity than floppys and they couldn't be copied. Enter the CDTV!!

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History

'Interactive' was the new buzzword for the early 90's. The CD format promised near limitless storage capacity that was needed to make true multimedial, interactive applications and games. The industry was convinced this was the next big thing and everyone would have an 'interactive' CD-based appliance in their homes, just like everyone had a VHS recorder in their homes already. 

It was against the background of this reasoning that Philips prepared to launch its CD-i system, which promised to be a multimedia interactive revolution. Before Philips got a chance to launch however, Commodore already beat them to the party with the CDTV, which stands for Commodore Dynamic Total Vision. Yes, the fact that the resulting acronym is CDTV, is ofcourse a total coincidence.

The CDTV was at its heart nothing more than an Amiga A500 in a different case, although the CDTV was designed to look like an appliance that would feel right at home in your living room right next to your VCR, and your kickass hifi stereo sound system. What did set it apart from an ordinary A500, besides the sexy black casing, was the inclusion of a remote control and a CD-ROM drive! 

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Now, let's get one thing straight right off the bat. The CDTV failed miserably. It was a complete and utter failure. There were several factors that contributed to the failure of the CDTV. Some were beyond Commodore's control, but as usual Commodore had a major hand in dooming the project itself.  

Why did it fail then? Well, the CDTV system was just too much ahead of its time. Consumers really didn't know what to make of the machine. Was it a computer? Was it a CD player? Commodore specifically instructed sellers  to position the CDTV as a an appliance, which meant you'd find the CDTV in the hifi and TV section of your consumer electronics store. Commodore did not want people to have the impression this was a computer. Admittedly this was mostly beyond Commodore's control, because Philips CD-i system suffered similar problems trying to reach the consumer.

Where Commodore did manage to screw up was in various other areas. One of the biggest screw ups was the fact that the CDTV included the aging 1.3 version ROM, while the 2.0 version was already being used in their newest computers. Secondly, they advertised the CDTV exclusively in Amiga publications, which were read primarily by A500 owners. A500 owners who'd rather wait for the announced CD-ROM drive expansion for their A500 which would turn their A500 into a full flegded CDTV for a much lower price. The target audience, 'regular' consumers, who were willing to pay the premium price tag attached to the CDTV, was not reached by Commodore's advertising campaign. Classic Commodore there. :-)


The CDTV's software catalogue wasn't that impressive and merely a year after its launch the CDTV was already considered a failure by the industry. Commodore did release peripherals for the CDTV that allowed users the expand the CDTV into a full computer. It produced a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse and a disk drive. 

Collection

Although the CDTV had its quirks and design oddities, it remains one of the coolest Amiga's ever made in my opinion. Sure, most regular A500 games were unplayable with the remote control and Commodore in their infinite wisdom decided to make the interface ports incompatible with standard Commodore mice and joysticks, but what you had here was an A500 in a very sexy black case that could be hooked up straight to your TV using S-Video for superior picture quality. It was also the only Amiga to feature built-in MIDI ports which meant it was extremely suitable to function as a music production tool by using one of the many MIDI sequencer software packages that were available for the Amiga platform. It also had an optional genlock device which allowed for superimposing of titles and graphics over standard TV signals so you could add effects and titles to your own videos.

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I have a CDTV in my collection which has been expanded with a CD-1301 genlock unit and a 1411 disk drive so I can boot regular disks on the CDTV. The 1.3 ROM actually makes the CDTV way more compatible with the majority of old games an apps that were not programmed in system friendly fashion. I do have an interface which allows me to connect regular joysticks to the CDTV, but unfortunately it only works for 1 joystick, so I can't really use it for multiplayer games. If you manage to find a working mouse/joystick interface for the CDTV it is really the ultimate Amiga to have in your living room. It plays all the classics and looks right at home in your living room. Because of their relative rareness, CDTV units don't come by that often and usually cost lots more than your average A500. Expect to pay around 75-100 euros for a working model in good condition. 



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